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Sunday, 30 March 2014 10:20

How Do You Get Started Flying a Single-Seat Aerobatic Plane? Part II Featured

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The next day, which should be the big day for my first flight in the Zlin , ended up being a day in the hangar, since too much gusty cross wind was  blowing. Instead I took the opportunity to learn how to adjust the seat of the plane, at the adjustable backrest and at the bottom, and to put it in just the right position for to reach all the positions of both stick and pedals.

David instructed me again in cabin procedures: those related to the start up the engine, before takeoff, before landing, maneuvers, and limitations. We reviewed everything several times. I strapped myself down in the plane as if I were going to fly. I sat in the cabin with the canopy closed, reviewing everything. There was just thing I couldn’t know, and that was the feeling of flying it. I took note of everything .

And I still needed another flight in the Extra 300. I wanted and needed desperately to be master of the plane during the touch down. I was missing that piece of the puzzle. If I did not feel that way on the next flight, I would ask David to do a third flight, just some touch-and-go.

A week passed, during which I went over the manual for the Zlin, especially all normal and emergency procedures. I took advantage of having access to the plane in the 1946 IL -2 Sturmovik simulator to practice touch and goes. It seemed to behave in the same way as the real plane at the approach speed of 140 km / h, but... since I was uncertain as to whether the touch of the virtual Z-50 was similar or not to the real Z-50, I took the  practice in the simulator as a test of visual angles and procedures , but not of the stick. Just like my joystick would not be the same as the actual stick of the Zlin, the range of motion would not be the same either ...

I tried other taildragger planes in other simulators. I was just leaving the alpha of the IL -2 Sturmovik : Battle of Stalingrad, which had an impeccable physical modeling of P-effect , gyroscopic precession , propwash, and torque , so I tried the flat spins ... and entered and exited  with the procedures David had taught me.

I went back to flying in other simulators, after a long time without doing so – the Aerofly FS two-seater Extra 330 – and I noticed I was more comfortable in the approaches after flying the real Extra. Also resumed with Patty Wagstaff’s Extra 300 in X - Plane 10, noticing that I was not as comfortable as in Aerofly , but that I was performing landings without any problems.

And it was then that it came, the big day. November 24, 2013. First thing, I was allowed to start and taxi the Z- 50 from in front of the hangar to the refueling area. First time I start the Z. The procedure is the same as in the CAP10, except the Z is slow to wake up, and when I thought the engine was going to stop after putting in the mix, it started loudly. 360 Hp under the hood that I had to handle with care for the first time. I took it so carefully and so slowly that I hardly had propwash to maneuver on the ground , having to use differential braking to make S’s and look ahead . I parked in front of the fuel area, refueled, and Carles Algué left to fly it for a normal training.

David and I got back into the Extra 300. This time there was no camera on board, but rather on the ground, recording us from outside.

Getting prepared for one of the greatest

experience of my life

First we review flat spins, normal and inverted. Then David got me into new situations, such as the tail slide, climbing  into vertical, throttle to idle, letting the plane fall while flying reverse for a moment, firmly grasping the controls, and with a subtle movement of the elevator, initiated before the backwards, making the nose go down, with the cabin up or down. After reaching the vertical down, the plane behaves like a dart that you throw up and begins to fall, outlining the shape of a bell which, in the cabin, is an interesting feeling.

This done, David asked me for the controls for a moment. I saw how he accelerated, making a very strong pull to the vertical, and the strongest I had experienced with this plane. At vertical, he completed a humpty bump at the top of the climb, passing a vertical down. Normally, with the CAP10, this maneuver is executed with very short vertical lines, in the climb because of lack of power, and in the descent, to avoid over speeding the engine. But in the Extra, the variable pitch automatically adjusts RPM during vertical downwards and therefore can be extended more.

Seeing that David did not take the plane out of vertical and seeing the ground get bigger, my eyes went to the anemometer and was preparing the body for a big load of G's. When he reached 160 knots, he stuck a pull stronger than the previous one. I noticed myself fighting against G, looking outside without losing sight of the horizon. It was only two seconds, but I was taken past 7G for a second time, which already felt very strong ... and to which I had to get accustomed. I felt comforted not having noticed a single symptom of vision loss, tunnel vision, black and white, or seeing stars. My body was becoming accustomed now...

With the maneuvers complete, we ran a series of 4 touch-and-goes and a final landing.

In the first, I performed the approach completely, it being very conservative. I did my best to bring the aircraft to the head of the runway with the appropriate slide, also playing with the gas. Once I undid the slide and cut the throttle on the runway, I saw that the decline was very smooth while maintaining alignment. The touch itself was smooth, but again I was looking towards the left and overcorrected on the right. I went around, again ...

In the second touch-and-go, David placed me in the right position, and I noticed that the plane was more under my control in my approach. I undid the slide when I was in the same position as before, and redoubled my efforts to stay focused and on the runway with a gentle descent to the touchdown.

It came out much better than before, but I was not entirely satisfied. I needed a few more touches with this plane.

Third touch, something clicked in my head, like it was integrating everything I had learned so far. I noticed I was much more comfortable and I started to take the hand ... David commented on it.

He also made not of it to me. Fourth touch, yes, this was the missing piece in the puzzle to complete this type of approach, I got it, I'm comfortably landing the Extra!

 Final touch, I noticed it was even better, although I don’t have David’s feel of the brakes and his execution, putting the plane at two points after placing it at three. In this way, the lower angle of attack reduces lift, aircraft weight is supported by the main landing gear, and the friction makes breaking easier and lessens the landing strip. I taxied back to the hangar, noting the plane was totally mine. I had gotten the confidence I needed. I was ready to fly the Z -50. Of the two flights on the Extra 300, I made a video:


I closed the cabin, checked that it was closed, and ran the startup procedure. With the engine warm from Carles’ flight, I started at the first. I looked around, I saw David and Carles beside the plane giving me directions. I followed the procedures, now testing the radio. In the Z this is mandatory, being that there is no intercom, it assures that when you speak, you’re not hearing yourself. I responded to David by radio, 5 of 5.After the debriefing , David and I reviewed the Z’s procedures one more time. I took a break for my body, had a little breakfast, and hydrated. A while later, it was time. We approached the Z, and they helped me to put the seat into position. I settled in, and they remembered me how to tie myself in, but it was me who ran every step. Ready. There would not be cameras, they recommended to me in order to avoid distractions. One less thing to worry about.

I released the brakes. I started to taxi. The time was coming. A lifetime of desire, 3 years flying since beginning PPL, approaching, step-by-step, this dream of flying alone an advanced aircraft, and it was only minutes away. I taxied more purposefully towards the head of runway 35. Having a little more propwash, less differential braking was not needed to make the S’s on the ground to look forward. Visibility was also much better than in the Extra that I had just flown. The flexible landing gear rocked the whole plane as it taxied, as if it had soft suspension. I put in the holding position and started the before-takeoff checklist. Canopy closed, test controls, and reviewing absolutely everything from left to right in the cabin, so that I don’t forget anything. Trim, mixture, anemometer, altimeter (in meters!), radio, engine instruments , switches ... it was still a little cold. I had to wait a few minutes. I went over everything a second time. Now hot, I performed the test of the magnetos. The roar of the engine to increase power slightly was frightening and promising at once. I tested the variable pitch.

It was working. Idling, not stalling. I recover 1000 RPM. Secure magnet 1 +2. Is there anything left to do?
No. But I reviewed everything a third time. David called me by radio to see what the delay was at the holding point. Everything is good, he assured me.

I make sure the runway is clear. I inhale. Give notice: Echo Charlie Lima Golf Sierra, entering runway 35 for immediate takeoff.

I start to move forward to align myself on the runway. The time is just a few seconds away!

Aligned. I take one more second. I release a sigh. Take me to the air! I start to give throttle, very slow at first.

I look at both sides very quickly. Feet lively, moving the pedals to stay in the center. I even accelerate slowly. More throttle, anemometer alive, 50 km/h, I relax the stick a bit, keep giving throttle, and now to full forward. My back totally nailed to the backrest, the acceleration is devilish, 360 Hp runaway at a gallop!
In one of the times that I change my gaze from one side to the other, I see something I had not expected.  Through the fuel gauge, which is a bubble outside the cabin, just above the tank, I see fuel coming out, spurting, contained by the gauge itself.

For a split second I plan to abort, seeing something I wasn’t planning for ...but I'm in the air! I concentrate on flying the plane. The pitching makes me extremely nervous, it has much more control than the Extra I just flew. The needle of the anemometer shoots up to 160 km/h, I raise the nose until I can stay at 140 km/h, normal climbing speed. I look at the fuel gauge, and now the liquid is no longer gushing . It must have been the vibration on the ground. Stabilized at a very steep ascent of about 40 degrees nose up, I burst out laughing. This is far superior to what I had imagined, and makes up for all the effort it took to get here! I turn to the right, towards the aerobatic box. I am surprised being inside it; when I was in the CAP10, I would have to make at least 4 ascending turns to reach a height for maneuvers.

I accelerate and climb a little more. I test harnesses pulling and pushing the lever. I level off; I’m going to try doing some turns. First a quarter roll to the right. Fast and accurate, I thought I would have more inertia...Then three-quarters to the left, ending upside-down. Pow! I stopped where I wanted, but control is somewhat harder than in the CAP10 and substantially more than in the Extra. A quarter roll to the right pulling 5G in a sharp horizontal turn. Wow, this is very powerful ...

I make some sharp turns to both sides. I feel like I am in fighter, like those in World War II. Visibility through the canopy without studs is unbeatable once in flight, and I also look great on both sides and below, which is important for seeing the aerobatic box and being where I want to be in a competition. On the radio, I hear a Yak52 returning to Igualada. I see it, and I feel somewhat tempted to chase it, but I have other things to do. Over the radio, David tells me to try slow flight and stalls. Cutting the throttle, I notice my body moves forward, as if I were halting in a car. I lift the nose, the speed drops, and once below 110 km/h, the wings begin to vibrate, and the speed drops more and more. I keep pulling the stick, and the stall increases, until the nose drops, but without all of a sudden, as the CAP10 would.

It is just like I have described, very noble.  You’re warned about the stall well in advance. 

I increase the throttle again. I try something else I've been told to try...from normal flight, I release the controls.

The plane holds two seconds in the attitude in which it was, then it begins to deviate, and if I don’t intervene, it will deviate completely. Interesting.

In coordination with David, I accelerate to 250 km/h and do a humpty bump. My god! What a long vertical line up! In the vertical line down, I already have the CAP10 chip to reduce the throttle and get out quickly, which results in me leveling out with a lot of speed to continue maneuvering. Again I speed and do a couple of loopings, with radio instructions, but I they were all but round. I have to relearn all references for all the maneuvers!

I decide to start the first approach. I'll make a touch and go, and then a landing. I enter onto the circuit, I take my time, pre-landing, rich mixture, pitch forward ... all green ... and anything else? The procedure is very short compared to the CAP and the Cessna. This aircraft is really spartan and simple ...

I note my references from the runway , looking to see what I saw before with the Extra, I notice ... and I finally get into place. The Yak has just landed, and I do not lose sight of it until notified that the runway is clear, and I can see that.  Well, now it’s just the runway, the Zlin and me...

And David on the radio! I hear him give me directions, telling me to continue, that I'm fine. It's my first landing with this plane. I’m owning it, thanks to my training with the Extra 300, but I am very alert as to how it responds to each correction I make. I focus on maintaining proper slide, I increase the throttle, descending fast. I aim at the head of the runway, keeping focused... David gives me a correction, now, it’s good...

I arrive at the threshold, now inside of the runway, I release the slide and reduce the throttle a little, but not fully, as David tells me ...

Zlin 50 LS Cockpit

The plane approaches the runway quickly, I keep focused but I give more throttle; the pitching makes me very nervous, I raise the nose to make three points ... David tells me to put idle, I'm floating. That I do, and as I have described many times, although the touch down is soft , it seems that something strange happens. The landing gear is opening by leaps and bounds to take the position it has on the ground and this produces a momentary vibration, which is normal for this plane. I control it with my feet, staying focused, so I go back to giving full throttle and apply my right foot to compensate for the brutal torque progressively released.

I'm back in the air in just 4 seconds, at the speed I was going before. New climb, new circuit ... I don’t give myself room to be happy, I will do that later, back on the ground. Again, come on, as before, I have to look for the same but reducing a little throttle ... David tells me through the radio, come on, come on, come on, stop sliding and reduce the throttle…

I look at both sides, adjust the descent, soft, smooth, I correct, a movie passes before my eyes, I correct , adjust brrrrr...and again, the usual vibration of the main landing gear. I'm on the ground.  I keep focused on the pedals, I let it decelerate.  Once I am below 80 km/h I start to apply the brakes at intervals, until I am at a low speed. I leave the runway and the noise to refuel again.

I stop the engine; mixture outside, magnets and master, then all the switches off. I take off the headphones and the gloves. Carles and David are coming on foot from the hangar. A deep breath, I relax while the buzz of the gyroscope dies...

Carles arrives while I am opening the canopy. He's recording me on video. I am very excited from having just had in my hands for the first time a high-performance plane like the Z-50, and my first statements show it. It is the only video there is of my launch in the Z... 

A handful of flights later, when I noticed I was more comfortable on the plane, I connected the camera and that is how it was aboard the Z, in what was my last flight of 2013:

If this is your dream, don't doubt it for a moment. Go after it, with all of your heart!

Yes, this is the plane I've always dreamed of flying! I have just begun the process of discovering its performance and learning to take full advantage of it flying aerobatics...

Read 43367 times Last modified on Monday, 06 March 2017 08:49

- Aerobatic pilot and competitor

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"Aerobatics is the hidden rythm of our soul..."